Thursday, November 15, 2007

Where Else Were We?

Vaya sirena màs guapa que acaba de salir del mar
(look at the lovely mermaid that just came out of the sea)

We dipped our feet in the freezing ocean water a little before midnight. God, the moon was bright. I was the closest to prayer I'd been in years. Writing this all down the following day, I would try to record a sentiment of never having left—but would quickly discover there wasn't anything with which to build a case. Yes, everything is the same. But everything is also very different; changed within the span of an entrance into and exit out of the sea.

You can go from town to town in this country and have that same sense: each city different, but so many commonalities. Always a Main Street, always a library. Always a white-haired man handing out pamphlets about the fast-track to salvation (Jesus, doncha know). Part of the adventure is finding differences in the places you go so you can keep track of your movements. Like, the smell of a place: an open field, or an attic, pillow, or the inside of a book. "It smells the same," he told me of a small town in Texas. "Just like I remember it." Just like the smell of the space where a neck meets a shoulder blade; or a tree just after the first leaves have fallen in autumn.

The man standing behind a bodega check-out counter watched my approach, keeping his eyes on me as he rang up the purchase. "Did you just get out of work?" he asked. "No," I said, smiling. "I was at a friend's show." "So now what?" "I'm heading home," I told him, then laughed. "Now you know everything."

He handed me a small bag with my receipt. We locked eyes. "Next time," he said, "I will know more."

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